Śutudrī of Ṛg veda and Śatadru of Rāmāyaṇa— are the names of same river in different times with different Fluvial and Fan conditions — Part 1

Rupa Bhaty
3 min readFeb 16, 2022


A short note to self

The River Śutudrī is mentioned in the Ṛg veda, and while it appears to have metamorphosed into Śatadru in later literature, the name remained same throughout the Harappan age and is now known as Sutlej.

Lets analyse both the words via Onomastic studies.

  1. Śutudrī ~Śitadrī’~ Śitadru~ sita + dru~ from the white (Snow clad mountains)
  2. Śata-dru ~100 streams (We will look into this in later post sometimes in future. I am still studying the deposition and fan of Sutlej post LGM)

The Description of Śutudrī in Ṛg veda

प्र पर्व॑तानामुश॒ती उ॒पस्था॒दश्वे॑ इव॒ विषि॑ते॒ हास॑माने । गावे॑व शु॒भ्रे मा॒तरा॑ रिहा॒णे विपा॑ट् छुतु॒द्री पय॑सा जवेते ॥

“Rushing from the flanks of the mountains, eager (to reach the sea) like two mares with loosened reins contending (with each other in speed), like two fair mother cows (hastening) to caress (their calves), the Vipās’ and Śutudri, flow readily with waterṣ ” — RV 3.33.1

The description gives us a vivid imagery of the contending horses and rushing parallel side by side until the confluence.

But the question arise that when did Śutudri-Sutlej go side by side of Vipās-Beas? In todays time it appears to be coming from opposite sides and meeting at the higher latitude where Sutlej and Beas confluence occurs at Harike Wetland, Punjab. The contending horses don’t come from opposite sides.

Can we find when this could have been a reality with the help of study of old paleo channels? Lets look into the deeper picture.

Answer is not after 13,000 BCE. [Fluvial channel persistence for studied time interval (about last 81 ka BP) shows major depositional breaks (and possible incision) at ∼41 ka (mid MIS3) and ∼31 ka (late MIS3).….Luminescence ages of these samples suggest that major channel activity of Sutlej river at its fan system ceased around ∼15 ka (post last-glacial maxima) and thereafter it avulsed to its modern course.)] Since the older channel of Sutlej is more parallel to old bed of Beas, the Ṛgvedic verse can only be older to 15 ka.

The Ṛshis of Ṛg veda happen to use these places and studied the areas between 29 to 32ºN very diligently where the Brahmavarta was already established.

…to be contd.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —


  1. Variable scale channel avulsion history using fan architecture and stratigraphy, and sediment provenance of Sutlej-Yamuna fans in northwest Gangetic plains during Late Quaternary
  2. शत — द्रु ‘flowing in a h° (or numerous) branches’, N. of a river now called the Sutlej. It is also called शुतु-द्रि, शुतु-द्रु, शित-द्रु. — Vedic Index
  3. शुतुद्री — Śutudrī, twice mentioned in the Rigveda, is the name of
    the most easterly river of the Panjab, the modern Sutlej, the
    Zaradros of Ptolemy and Arrian. In the post-Vedic period
    the name of this river appears transformed to Śatadru (‘flowing
    in a hundred channels’). The Sutlej has changed its course
    very considerably within historical times — Vedic Index



Rupa Bhaty

Architect and Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Indic studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, MA, USA